Sunday, 29 January 2012

Do Infants Only Learn "One" Language Well? (3)

Do Infants Only Learn "One" Language Well? (3)
“Knowledge Acquired in a Language Is NOT Accessible or Transferable to Another Language”

Recent studies have revealed overlapping language areas in the brain of people who have a strong command of more than one language. This point could be twisted in favour of the myth that the brain has only “limited space” in which to store information relating to language. Other studies on bilingual subjects have shown the activation of distinct areas of a few millimetres when they described what they did that day in their native language, then in the language learned much later (Kim, 1997).

The question of “language areas” in multilingual individuals has thus not yet been resolved. But from this lack of resolution, it is wrong to claim that the strong command of one’s native language is weakened when a second language is learned. Abundant cases of multilingual experts are living proof that this is not so. Students who learn a foreign language at school do not get weaker in their native language but instead advance in both.

“Knowledge acquired in a language is not accessible or transferable to another language” is another myth and one of the most counter-intuitive. Anyone who learns a difficult concept in one language – for example evolution – can understand it in another language. If there is incapacity to explain the concept in the second language, it is due to a lack of vocabulary not a decrease in knowledge.

Experiments have found that the more knowledge is acquired in different languages, the more it is stored in areas far away from the area reserved for language: it is not only preserved in the form of words but in other forms such as images. Multilingual individuals may no longer remember in what language they learned certain things – they may forget after a while if they read a particular article or saw a particular film, for example, in French, in German, or in English.

"Understanding the Brain", The Birth of a Learning Science, 2007, page 118

1 comment:

  1. buenos dias(desde grecia),
    ellen bialystok is a preeminent researcher on bilingualism

    an interview about the bilingual advantage here